Local Color 8-3-2007

Zacatecas’ annual folklore festival brings colonial Mexico to life

By: Josef Kandoll W

This is the first Image
One of the festival dances
representing a style similar to the polka,
from the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
Even before you reach the historic main plaza in colonial Zacatecas, you hear music against the staccato of feet on the wooden stage. During the annual Folklore Festival, dance troupes perform from around the world: Finland, Austria, Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, Norway, Sweden, Italy, France, Lithuania, Portugal, Greece, Panama and, of course, the most colorful regions of Mexico. Even when seasonal rains prevent dancing on the temporary stage erected on the plaza, the impressive Calderon Theater forms the perfect home for evening events.

One of the factors that makes this festival function so well within the historic capital city is the $5 ticket price, making the event accessible to any fan. Lines can be long if you don’t get your tickets during the day so advise your clients to arrive early. And, be aware that seating is something of a free-for-all.

This is the second Image
The “teleferico” or cable car takes
passengers back to town from the hilltop
shrine at La Bufa in Zacatecas.
In addition to the square next to the baroque Basilica, other festival events take place in nearby plazas, as well as in some of the surrounding pueblos. We took in an afternoon performance in the huge municipal theater in not-too-far-away Guadalupe, accessible by city bus and an inexpensive taxi ride back. In fact, we arrived in downtown Zacatecas in time to take in the final performance at the theater.

We spent our evenings walking. It’s best to stay in or near downtown, since during the afternoon the historic city center (a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site) is closed to vehicles. There are numerous hotels in the three- to five-star range. Although visitors are encouraged to make early reservations, we arrived during the festival and found a room, albeit without a view, for a decent rate just five blocks from the main cathedral. While Zacatecas comes from a native word for “place where the grass grows,” the historic center is also known for its vibrant cafes, restaurants and clubs.

We found that mornings were a perfect time to explore the town, when things are relatively quiet. During our walk, the sun opened up amazing vistas in the neighborhood streets. We also took a hike up to La Bufa, the hill above town, where statues honor three important revolutionary heroes next to a chapel with a view of the entire town. Tour buses venture up there from the city center, while a cable car (teleferico) brings visitors down closer to town in the area of the historic gold and silver mines. (On the weekends, some of the mines are transformed into popular underground discos.) Stores in town sell some of the precious mineral wealth of the region including gemstones and large chunks of amethyst.


Delta offers new nonstop service to Zacatecas from Los Angeles every Monday, Friday and Sunday, with connections to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Oakland, Fresno and Seattle.


One of the most outstanding historic hotels in the country is the Hotel Quinta Real , built in the Ex-Plaza de Toros San Pedro, a boutique hotel of exquisite quality and taste. Balconies open out onto the main circular area of the bull ring, now a sunny terraced patio where you can enjoy breakfast. Quinta Real can be booked toll-free through Mexico Boutique Hotels.

The Hotel Meson de Jobito was built in a neighborhood called Jobito very close to the historic city center. Built in a series of connecting buildings with its own interior tree-lined street and plazuela, this colorful hotel gains a nod for such intriguing integration of a neighborhood.

For inexpensive lodging with local flavor, try the Hotel Posada Tolosa , just five blocks from the core of the city center. Breakfast is included and the rooms sleep from four to eight persons.

All hotels offer 10 percent commission; ask about special or group rates.


Cathedral Basílica: you can’t miss it standing tall right over downtown. Take time examining the intricate stonework of the façade, detailed with religious stories and fables. (Hidalgo s/n; open daily 6am-10pm)

Templo de Santo Domingo: this baroque temple is located on the street above downtown on Genaro Codina on Plaza Santo Domingo

Teatro Calderón: located in the core of the historic downtown, the French-style theater was inaugurated in 1897 reflecting the European tastes of the era. (Hidalgo 501; daily 9am-9pm)

Ex Plaza de Toros San Pedro, Acueducto “El Cubo”: these two sites are located next to one another, the former bull ring now home to the deluxe Quinta Real Hotel. (You’re welcome to enjoy the restaurant, one way to enter and wander around.) Standing on the street above is what remains of the original aqueduct constructed to bring water to the city from the mountains. (Gonzalo Ortega at the aqueduct)

Mina “El Edén”, Teleférico, Cerro de La Bufa: a tour will take you through each of these sites, located just above town. Another option is hiking up via the local streets, a route taken by pilgrims to the chapel on the hill on February 2, Day of the Candelaria. The tour guide will explain the historical significance of the three statues on horseback commemorated at the park above. (Open daily 10am-6pm)

Museo Rafael Coronel (Ex Convento de San Francisco): housing one of the most extensive mask collections in the entire world, this museum is housed within the various wings of the ex-convent. Photographs are allowed without flash. (Open daily except Wednesday 10am-4:30pm; plan at least two hours.)

Museo de Arte Abstracto Manuel Felguérez: this unique museum is dedicated to the groundbreaking modernist work of Manuel Felguérez, one of Mexico’s greats, native son of Valparaiso, Zacatecas. (Located at Colón & Seminario; (492) 224-3705; open daily except Tuesday 10am-5pm)


Look for handicrafts such as embroidery, table wear and linens, papier maché masks, colorful hand-knit belts. Compare the great prices for semi-precious stones, onyx, amethyst and hand-worked silver.


Acropolis: casual family-style restaurant, coffee and desserts as well as meals (Hidalgo just across from the cathedral; (492) 922-1284)

El Recoveco: popular buffet, Zacatecas-style dishes, $60 pesos including refreshment, $40 pesos for children, beer, wine, dessert extra; breakfast $50 pesos. (Torreón 513; (492) 924-2013; open daily 8:30am-7pm)

La Cuija: great choice for fine dining, extensive wine list (just a block below the cathedral on Calle Tacuba)

Moulin Rouge: piano bar on Hidalgo, a popular after-theater night spot featuring live music


February 2 Festival de Candelaria: pilgrimage goes on foot to the Capilla de Mexicapan, one of the oldest chapel in the city

March 31-April 8 Cultural Festival of Zacatecas: dates vary each year but Semana Santa is celebrated with food, music, dance

1st week of August Festival Folklor: international folklore dance festival

Last week of August Morismas de Bracho: celebrated the final Friday, Saturday and Sunday of August in Las Lomas de Bracho, north of the city, this event commemorates a legendary battle between the Christians and Moors

September 3-18 Fiestas Patronales de Zacatecas: traditional patriotic events including the founding of the city (8 Sept) as well as honoring the virgin patron saint at the chapel on La Bufa above the city (3-12 Sept) and finally, the national Independence Day (16 Sept)

3rd week of October International Festival of Street Theater: street theater celebrated downtown and throughout the area